Saturday, October 15, 2022

France & Maldonado Tangle on Double Play in Seattle

Mariners first baseman Ty France turned a blazingly quick double play, catching Astros batter Jose Altuve's infield fly ball before quickly tagging baserunner Martin Maldonado in the 5th inning of Game 3 of the American League Division Series in Seattle. 1B Umpire Cory Blaser officiated the play several feet away while HP Umpire and Crew Chief Marvin Hudson explained the sequence to Houston manager Dusty Baker shortly thereafter.

The broadcasters mentioned that Baker may have sought to solicit an interference call, while also claiming that perhaps France had pushed Maldonado off the base ala the Kent Hrbek-Ron Gant force off play in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, but replays confirm that fielder France tagged Maldonado off the base, and that Maldonado never made it back to first base to tag up until after the tag was applied.

There is some confusion about the entanglement issue, so perhaps the Official Baseball Rules' definitions for interference and obstruction will help explain.
Interference is an act ordinarily committed by the offense against the defense. It is defined as an infraction by the team at bat which "interferes with, obstructs, impedes, hinders, or confuses any fielder attempting to make a play." There is a special case for catcher's interference, which must be committed against a batter during a pitched ball (in NFHS/high school, this is ordinarily called catcher's obstruction).
Obstruction is an act ordinarily committed by the defense against the offense and is defined as, "the act of a fielder who, while not in possession of the ball and not in the act of fielding the ball, impedes the progress of any runner."

However, replays clearly indicate fielder France was either in the act of fielding the ball (the fielder ordinarily has the right of way to field a batted ball) or in possession of the ball at all times during the fielder-runner interaction, so it can be said that no defensive infraction occurred during this fast double play sequence. If anything, one could argue that baserunner Maldonado interfered with France, had France dropped the ball as a result of Maldonado standing off the base and in the way of the catch of a batted ball.

Video as follows:

Alternate Link: France turns double play on Astros' Altuve, Maldonado (CCS)


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